Facebook at Face Value

Rice University’s Graduate School of Business recently conducted a study on the effectiveness of Facebook marketing by teaming up with a Houston, Texas sweet spot called Dessert Gallery Bakery and Café.  The results of this study (“How Effective is Facebook Marketing”) are featured in an upcoming edition of the Harvard Business Review.

Dessert Gallery had no social media presence before the study began, so all of the data is a direct result of the Facebook page that was created.  Here is an excerpt from an interview with Utpal Dholakia, associate professor of marketing from Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business, and Sara Brook, the owner of Desert Gallery, that explains both the general idea behind and process of this case study:

“So social media is very popular these days and for the last couple of years everyone is interested in knowing about how Facebook works.  How effective is Facebook marketing, and more importantly, how much they should invest in Facebook and Twitter and all those types of things.  Given the fact that Sara didn’t have a Facebook presence, that gave us an opportunity to really answer this question in a controlled way.  So what was very appealing about this is we actually measured customers’ evaluations prior to the Facebook presence.  Then we let the Facebook presence go on for about three months and Sara did a really good job of doing a lot of promotions. And then three months later we evaluated her customers’ responses regarding the store and how much they buy at the store, how much they recommend her store to friends, and so on.”

Overall, Rice researchers claim that membership on the Facebook fan page changed customer behavior for the better.  Facebook fans made more visits to Dessert Gallery, spent more money at Dessert Gallery, were more likely to recommend Dessert Gallery to friends, and also had a greater emotional attachment to the company.

One of the most helpful/important lessons learned in this study Dholakia noted was about the use of promotions:

“It turns out that the quality of the content, the types of promotions you run, are extremely important in how successful Facebook marketing is. In fact that is the biggest driver. So it’s not enough to just have a Facebook Fan Page and then expect that you’re going to have a very effective and successful marketing program.”

For example, when Sara’s daugther’s 20th birthday came around she was away at college and couldn’t celebrate at home, but Sara decided to have a party at the bakery anyway.  She announced it on Facebook – “All of my customers in the community, if your name is Jennifer, come in on September 25th for a free slice of Jennifer’s birthday cake.”  It was a huge success.

Promotions can be a strong incentive to grow your follower base within social media channels. There is a great opportunity to grab advocates and supporters on Facebook.

Getting Started on Facebook
  1. Start A Facebook Fan Page
  2. Fill out the profile with as much relevant information as you can
  3. Use FBML, or “FaceBook Markup Language” to add in custom hmtl to your page
  4. Add the Causes application
  5. Add in your existing social network!
  6. Ask your supporters to invite their social networks. Educate them on how to do this.
How are you leveraging the power of Facebook for your cause? Let us know in the comments!